Do Comics Count as Real Reading?

Do Comics Count as Real Reading?

You bet they do, and here’s why

Stop right there! What do you mean by “comics?” Comics are graphic novels that incorporate both text and images to pass information to learners.

Wait a minute! Confusion!! Are comics and graphic novels the same thing?

To find an answer to that question, click the link in the paragraph above and you will come to a great article by Nathan Chandler who explains the differences and similarities between comics and graphic novels.

Here are a few of Mr. Chandler’s ideas about the differences and similarities:

“Pinning down an exact definition is difficult because there’s no consensus on what constitutes a graphic novel, but there are some noted differences. For starters, graphic novels are typically much longer than the average comic book. Secondly, most comic books are part of a series, issued monthly, while graphic novels are often one story per book, sometimes spread over multiple volumes. Graphic novels are also typically square-bound like books.

Beyond these disparities, though, comics and graphic novels are strikingly similar. They both have illustrations, rely heavily on fonts to drive the stories, and are usually laid out in boxy frames that resemble comic strips. Like their comic kin, graphic novels are a type of sequential art.”

And now, back to the topic of the day: Do Comics Count as Real Reading?  Answer: You bet they do, and here’s why:

  • Start reading a comic book, and at once you’re experiencing a story revealed to you with both words and pictures. To make sense of the comic’s story, you—the reader must explore the story’s plot, characters, conflict(s), theme(s), cause and effect, and other story elements—just as a reader of a traditional story must do to comprehend the experience. The text—the words—and the visuals—drawings, pictures, illustrations—work together to reveal these elements,.
  • You, the comic book reader, move from pictures to words and words to pictures to understand the text—fictional story, informational/nonfiction text, biography,poetry—any comics text where words support pictures and pictures support words.
  • What if you’re a reader who struggles with reading? Will you be able to handle a story that has two ways of asking for your attention—words and pictures? Well, guess what? You’ll use the visual images to help you understand words and the connections among them. The layout, structure, and format of comics have the power to engage you, the reader who has a difficult time staying interested in traditional stories and nonfiction books. Think of the electronic devices you use daily that attract you with loads of visual images and keep you busy deciphering—figuring out—what’s going on in the games, videos, reports, news, and groups you’re observing. You are a visual learner online and with comics.
  • The nice thing about comics is that they enliven all sorts of subjects you can read about while you’re improving your reading skills.


Do you like science topics and enjoy exploring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects? Well, then go to your library and look for the many books that make up the Science Comics Series (published by Macmillan). The series includes:

Science ComicsDinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood

“In Dinosaurs, learn all about the history of paleontology! This fascinating look at dinosaur science covers the last 150 years of dinosaur hunting, and illuminates how our ideas about dinosaurs have changed–and continue to change.”

Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future by Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot

“From tea-serving robots in feudal Japan to modern rovers exploring Mars, robots have been humanity’s partners, helpers, and protectors for centuries! Join one of the world’s earliest robots, a mechanical bird named Pouli, as he explores where robots came from, how they work, and where they’re going in this informative and hilarious new book! Ever dreamt of building your own best friend? It might be easier than you think!”      

Solar System: Our Place in Space by Rosemary Mosco and Jon Chad

“Get up close and personal with Earth’s nearest neighbors―Venus with its acid rainstorms, Saturn and its rings of ice, and the heart of it all, the Sun. Humans have always been fascinated by outer space and we’re learning more about our solar system every day. Did you know that our Solar System was born from a cloud of cosmic dust? That Jupiter’s red spot is really a raging storm? Join Sara, Jill, and their space-faring pets on a quest to learn more about the wonders of our Solar System―and beyond!”


Comics also spotlight historical events. In a comic, dramatic pictures and lively texts emphasize fascinating facts, discoveries, tragedies, recovery, and human resilience.

Books in the History Comics series offer fascinating well-designed graphics and captivating writing. A few History Comics books:

History Comics: The Challenger Disaster: Tragedy in the Sky by Pranas T. NaujokaitisHistory Comics

“What caused the mid-air explosion? In Pranas T. Naujokaitis’s imaginative tale, set in a far-off future, a group of curious kids investigates the hard questions surrounding the Challenger explosion. Inspired by the legacy and sacrifice of the Challenger seven, they continue in their footsteps, setting out toward the stars and into the great unknown!”

History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire: Rising From the Ashes by Kate Hannigan and Alex Gaudins

“A deadly blaze engulfs Chicago for two terrifying days! A brother, a sister, and a helpless puppy must race through the city to stay one step ahead of the devilish inferno. But can they reunite with their lost family before it’s too late?”

History Comics: The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery by Chris Schweizer

“Over a hundred years before the pilgrims, the very first English settlers arrived on Roanoke Island. But without warning, these colonists abandoned their new home and disappeared without a trace.

What happened to the colonists? To figure it out, we’ll need to investigate how these missing settlers got to Roanoke in the first place, and what the people already living there thought about these strange foreigners. It’s a case filled with brutal battles, perilous pirate ships, ruthless queens, scheming businessmen, and enough skeletons to fill a graveyard.”


Brief biographies presented in comics format fill the pages of Before They were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids by Elizabeth Haidle

Biography“What makes a writer?  What inspires them? Where do their stories come from? Striking illustrations and a popular graphic novel format bring to life this anthology of literary legends and their childhoods. Featuring beloved authors such as Maya Angelou, C.S. Lewis, Gene Luen Yang and J.K. Rowling, these stories capture the childhood triumphs, failures, and inspirations that predated their careers.”

The Life of Frederick Douglass by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise

“A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American.”


March: Book One, March: Book Two, and March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate PowellMemoirs

A heartfelt, emotionally moving three-book memoir by Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement presented in comics. Follow his commitment to justice and nonviolence from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.


RelationshipsWhat about a comic book that gets you thinking about relationships and how to keep them strong and happy? That’s the topic Sonica Ellis explores in The Mindful Ninjas: A Growth Mindset Comic Book for Boys and Girls. This fun comic teaches children that by sowing seeds of kindness and love they help others, and by helping others they in turn help themselves.


Racism & the Klu Klux Klan

RacismSuperman Smashes the Klsn by Gene Luen Yang. Illustrated by Gurihiru

“It’s 1946. Teenagers Roberta and Tommy Lee just moved with their parents from Chinatown to the center of Metropolis, home to the famous hero, Superman.  One night, the family awakens to find their house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross! Superman leaps into action, but his exposure to a mysterious green rock has left him weak. Can Roberta and Tommy help him smash the Klan?”

Comics for Young Readers

Minecraft Volume 1(Graphic Novel) by R. Sfé Monster. Illustrated by Sarah Graley.

Tyler, along with his Minecraft friends Evan, Candace, Tobi, and Grace have been going on countless adventures together across the expanses of the Overworld and are in need of a new challenge. They decide to go on the Ultimate Quest–to travel to the End and face off against the ender dragon!

Comics for Young ReadersYoung Justice Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis. Illustrated by Patrick Gleason

“When the nightmare dimension known as Gemworld invades Metropolis, Wonder Girl, Robin, and Impulse answer the call to face the threat as a reborn Young Justice joined by new heroes Jinny Hex (a seeming descendant of legendary bounty hunter Jonah Hex) and a new emerald warrior reluctantly called Teen Lantern. But they’re shocked to discover the battle may be the key to the return of Conner Kent, a.k.a. Superboy! But where have these heroes been? And how much do they remember of their shared pasts in a universe that has been reshaped while they’ve been apart?” It’s a Wonder Comic.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Complete Collection by Hergé

“To celebrate Tintin’s 90th anniversary, the original 23 adventures have been collected together for the first time …. Join the most iconic character in comics as he embarks on extraordinary adventures and solves thrilling mysteries! From the Land of the Soviets to America, to outer space and the depths of the ocean, there are over 1,600 pages of delight in these eight volumes.”

“The three stories that started it all–gathered together in one beautiful volume! Asterix the Gaul introduces us to our indomitable hero and his friends, who try to defend one small Gallic village from the surrounding Romans. In Asterix and the Golden Sickle, he, Obelix, and Lutetia try to buy a new sickle for Getafix. But somehow the sicklesmith has disappeared without a trace. And Asterix and Obelix have to ride to the rescue when the Goths kidnap Getafix in Asterix and the Goths.”5-Minute Spider-Man Stories (5-Minute Stories) by Marvel Press Book Group”

5-Minute Spiderman Stories by  Marvel Press Book Group

“New York’s favorite spider Super Hero is back to battle his biggest villains yet! Each of these twelve stories is the perfect length for reading aloud in about five minutes, making great quick reads. This treasury not only contains old favorites, such as Peter Parker’s origin story, but also new friends like Miles Morales. With action-packed full-page and spot illustrations, Spider-Man’s 5-minute Stories are perfect before bedtime, on the go, or any time of day!”

As we come to the end of our blog, let me introduce you to Jennifer Marshall, a middle school reading teacher who loves comics and praises the success she’s had motivating her students—some of them non-readers or struggling readers—to enjoy comics. She writes about comic books and her success with getting her students to read them in “The Power of Comics.” Find the article here:

Many thanks to Ms. Marshall for a list of her students’ favorite comics:

  • Dog Manby Dav Pilkey (Graphix)
  • The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag (Graphix)
  • Smile, Sisters, Ghost, and Drama all by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
  • Marvel Volume 1: No Normalby G. Willow Wilson (Marvel)
  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds (Marvel)
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (First Second)
  • The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix)
  • Bone by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books)
  • Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld (First Second)
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Dial)
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale (First Second)
  • Quarterback Rush by Carl Bowen (Stone Arch)
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second)
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (First Second)
  • Angelic by Simon Spurrier (Image Comics)
  • Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel (Graphix)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell (Harry N. Abrams)
  • Anya’s Ghostby Vera Brosgol (Square Fish).


Goodbye for now, readers and writers, and remembereveryone is a reader quote